A Proven Criminal Defense Team

What’s the difference between reckless and careless driving?

On Behalf of | Oct 14, 2021 | Traffic Violations |

Every driver will make questionable decisions from time to time that could lead to harmful consequences. Ideally, the driver’s inattention or potentially illegal maneuver to avoid missing a turn caused nothing more than a few blaring horns from other motorists.

While they typically issue a reckless driving citation or careless citation to drivers of cars or trucks, law enforcement may also give it to those riding regular or electric bicycles, low-power electric scooters and other modes of transportation. Regardless of the mode of transport, there are important differences between careless and reckless driving.

Reckless driving penalties involve intent

This is a Class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. Regardless of the mode, the driver or rider indicates a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property. The “willful” refers to a driver intentionally endangering the safety of others. “Wanton,” on the other hand, points out that the driver knew better but did it anyway.

The sentencing varies:

  • First offense: This may include 10 to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.
  • Multiple convictions: Fines can go up to $1,000 and may include ten days to six months in jail.

The driver also gets eight points on their license, which can mean a suspension and will likely increase auto insurance costs. There may also be additional charges if the offending driver caused injuries or damage.

Careless driving is the lesser offense

This involves the driver acting careless or impudently without concern for traffic, turns, grades, safety buffers, and road conditions. Rather than wanton or willful actions, careless driving is closer to negligent driving. Examples of this include not using a turn signal, illegal turns, and other infractions.

It is still a class 2 misdemeanor, and the potential penalties are the same as reckless, but careless drivers only have four points taken off their license. Law enforcement issues no points for careless driving if the person is on a bicycle or scooter. Of course, officials add other charges if there are injuries or damage.

The penalties can add up

The legal system typically increases the penalties when the drivers are repeat offenders. So, it is always in the best interests of drivers and riders to try and reduce the charges and penalties. They will thank themselves later if they get pulled over again.


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